Last Sunday we ended the year of mercy with the feast of Christ the King, although the Holy Year has ended we remember that the mercy of god is never-ending and is without any bounds. So this Sunday we begin our Advent journey the period of waiting and watching as we prepare spiritually for the season of Christmas. We bless the Advent Wreathe and light the first purple candle it symbolizes our longing, our desire, our hope at this time of year. Christmas is a sort of spiritual birthday party, celebrating a past event, the birth of the Messiah. That said if we think that Christmas is a secular celebration of a birth 2000 years ago we are missing the point it is not just about a past event it is also about the here and now of today and the future. Three particular things shape our preparation during advent. We want to be renewed in the sense that Jesus came to save us from our sin and death. We want to experience his coming to us in our everyday lives, to help us live our lives with meaning and purpose. And we want to prepare for his coming to meet us at the end of our lives on this earth.
At the beginning of each church year we are reminded that Jesus the Christ is present in his church today. When we think of his presence as something so exalted as to be beyond our own experience, we are reminded sharply that he was born in the lowest of places, a common stable. His first visitors were stinky, rough shepherds who were the outcasts of the society at that time. The preparation time that the season of Advent affords us is a time for us to prune, weed and convert our spiritual lives and our way of thinking as we prepare the way for the Lord so that he can enter into our lives. The tragedy of this season is that we have been programmed over so many years to believe that Christmas is all about gift giving, and non-stop activity that leaves everyone so exhausted and happy it’s all over by Christmas Eve. So then we forget about the 12 days of Christmas and dump the tree the decorations and the lights as soon as possible. Blessed John Henry Newman reminds us that “Advent is a time of waiting; it is a time of joy because the coming of Christ is not only a gift of grace and salvation but it is also a time of commitment because it motivates us to live the present as a time of responsibility and vigilance.
This ‘vigilant responsibility’ means the necessity, of an industrious, living ‘wait’ as we prepare the way for the Lord pruning away all that hinders us from making him welcome when he comes at Christmas . As we begin advent we need to ask ourselves what are we waiting for. Are we waiting for the presents and razzmatazz that the secular part of Christmas bring or are we preparing spiritually for the greatest gift of God, his Son, Jesus the light in the darkness who is the reason for the season of Christmas.